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Tree Equity And The Lack Of Pubs In Poor Areas



We’ve two reports out both making the same mistake. They’re confusing correlation with causation – or, perhaps, they’re getting the causation wrong.

The point they’re making is that poor people tend to live in shitty areas. This is true. But the question is, why do poor people live in shitty areas? The answer being that shitty areas are cheaper so poor people live in them.

The first is a ‘uuuge American study shouting about tree cover:

Houston is a city of extreme heat: the hottest daily temperature last August peaked at 100F (38C). But like many other US metropolitan areas, how much heat you endure depends largely on where you live. That’s because Houston is a tale of two cities: one is sprawling with greenery, public parks and hundred-year-old oak trees, all of which can help mitigate the heat. The other is a bevy of strip malls stacked on top of concrete – which produces and absorbs more heat throughout the day.

Adelea-Lopez lives in the latter: her neighborhood Sharpstown is sandwiched between two highways and features apartment complexes that offer little green space. And this absence of tree-lined streets is indicative of socioeconomic and health disparities that exist throughout Houston.

This is true of London as well. Those areas around Hyde Park are packed with rich folk, those areas devoid of greenery in Whitechapel are not.

So, why is this? Because humans like living near parks. Like having trees around – we are apes who came down out of them after all. That rolling English parkland is the closest most of us will ever get to the ancestral savannah. OK.

So, what happens when there’s one area that is more to human taste than another? The price of being in that nice place gets bid up. So, over time there’s a sorting effect as rich people end up living in nice places and poor people don’t. This will be true of variance in any desirable attribute. If we all want to live next to soccer stadia – or don’t – then the income levels of those who live around soccer stadia will be different from those who don;t live next to soccer stadia. Or underneath airport flight paths – Hounslow is cheaper per piece of house than many other areas of West London.

Shrug, what does anyone expect will happen?

The same is true of this:

England’s poorest neighbourhoods have by far the biggest shortages of basic social infrastructure such as parks, playgrounds, pubs, shops and sports facilities – and are least likely to get government funding to renew their community, a study has found.

An audit of public assets in the 10% worst-off council wards – known as “left behind neighbourhoods” – found they had disproportionately fewer public spaces and buildings, and were less than half as likely to have charities and community groups in their local area.

Eight wards had no shops at all in their neighbourhoods or within 1km of the local area, while three had no public parks, gardens or playing fields, according to the study, carried out for the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on left behind neighbourhoods.

Quite so. Wastelands like Upper Twerton are less desirable to live in because of their lack of pubs, shops and parks. Therefore property is cheaper in those areas and so, over time, there’s a sorting effect into poorer people living in those areas.

What does anyone expect to happen?

It’s like noting nose, one, nostrils, two, on the front facing part of a human skull.




  1. One could also argue that the poor areas have fewer shops because the potential customers have less money. Likewise with regard to charities and community groups.

    And if the local councils had to pay for anything, they’d have less income to let them do so.

    Basically the argument appears to be that areas which have less money have less money.


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